Steelers vs. Bengals: Players to Watch
Unfortunately for the Pittsburgh Steelers, they were denied the opportunity to eliminate the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday thanks to Peyton “The Duck Throwing” Manning giving the ball to the Bengals defense four times. Even though both teams have clinched a playoff spot, there is plenty to play for with the AFC North crown up for grabs. The winner of this game will also get to play a home playoff game rather than having to go to Indianapolis to face the Colts. Here are a few players to watch for on Sunday night.
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Despite the fact that the Bengals improved to 3-6 in primetime games with Andy Dalton at the helm, little of their win had to do with their quarterback. Peyton Manning threw four interceptions, including the fourth quarter pick-six that secured the win. Jeremy Hill had an 85-yard touchdown run and Dalton threw a pick-six himself, while throwing for 146 yards having a QBR of 29. Dalton has had another up and down year throwing 17 touchdowns to 15 interceptions. He had a game with a quarterback rating of 2 and he then the next week his rating 143.9.
Against the Steelers three weeks Dalton played well even though his team lost 42-21. With the help of A.J. Green, Dalton threw two touchdowns for 302 yards. This Sunday, Dalton will likely be the determining factor of who wins the AFC North. If bad Andy shows up the Bengals should have no chance to win, seeing as how Ben Roethlisberger isn’t likely to throw four interceptions at home. If the Bengals get to see good Andy and Green (biceps) is healthy enough to play the Bengals offense will be able to score against the 27th ranked Steelers pass defense.
P.S. If A.J. Green scores, that’s good news for the Steelers. The Bengals are 0-4 when he scores a touchdown on them, compared to 2-1 when he fails to score.
Jeremy Hill has been the NFL’s third leading rusher since week nine. In his rookie season he has four 100-yard games, two of which coming in the Bengals last two games. In the week 14 game against the Steelers, Hill was only given eight carries for 46 yards. The Bengals only attempted 21 total rushing plays against the Steelers, while Dalton threw it 35 times. I think that strategy will likely change unless the Bengals find themselves in a huge hole early.
In games where Hill gets 13 or more carries the Bengals are an impressive 7-0. In games where Hill gets 20+ carries, he has run for 100 yards in all of them, and the Bengals have won by an average of 16.5 points. Like I mentioned in the Dalton section, if he struggles the Bengals will have to look to the run to carry the offense. The Steelers inability or ability to stop Hill and even Gio Bernard will impact the game, maybe not as much as the Dalton factor but personally I’d rather see the Steelers defense make Dalton beat them rather than letting the ground game punish them.
Let’s start with Big Ben, who frankly is getting no love in the MVP conversation. Through 15 games he has 30 touchdowns to only 8 interceptions.
The Killer B’s
In the first meeting between the Steelers and the Bengals, the Steelers offense torched the Bengals defense to the tune of 543 total yards and 42 points. Most the heavy lifting was done by Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, Antonio Brown (like it’s been all season), and let’s not forget Martavis Bryant, who had four catches for 109 yards including the 94-yard touchdown. If good Andy shows up for the Bengals offense, the Steelers may need to match points.
Let’s start with Big Ben, who frankly is getting no love in the MVP conversation. Through 15 games he has 30 touchdowns to only 8 interceptions. If he can somehow reach 365 yards against the Bengals he will throw for 5,000 yards on the season. In the first meeting Ben was fantastic throwing for 350 yards and three touchdowns. Another performance like that and the Steelers should be on their way to an AFC North title.
Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown will also need to produce like they did in the first game. Brown had a routine 9 for 117 game. He has been remarkable all season long and I doubt that changes in week 17. Bell though has been held to rushing averages of 3.2 and 2.4 yards per carry over the past two weeks. Sure he has found the end zone three times but another 100+ yard game would be nice to see as the Steelers head into the playoffs.
Who else should we keep an eye on Steelers Nation?